Single Phone “Phone Stack”

Have you played the game of “phone stack” yet?

As explained to me, any group of folks gathering socially — typically a meal at a restaurant — all stack their phones, smart or otherwise, in the center of the table. The first person in their group who reaches for his or her phone… pays the tab for the entire table. When it buzzes or beeps, can you resist reaching for your internet umbilical?

The point of “phone stack”? We are a people captivated, if not addicted, to continual, constant stimulation, enabled by our technology to immerse ourselves in the ever-flowing stream of personal, media-produced, and general messages and “content.” We have come to expect and to welcome constant interruptions, updates, and assurances, whether trivial or crucial.

Of course, much of that stream of content can be questionable or even harmful effluent.

Admittedly, I am not in a position to rant or point a finger here, since I am — this very minute — adding to the overflowing stream (info-dump?) with this blog. And I do thank God for the tools we have for staying in touch across a distance or in an emergency. This week, amazingly, I spoke with a friend living in China face-to-face on another friend’s smart phone. He even gave us a panaromic view of Shanghai’s infamous smog (without the stinging eyes or hacking coughs on our end).

But I love the reminder we get from phone stack — letting go, resisting our impulse to keep checking our phone texts, e-mails, tweets, entertainment downloads, etc., enables us to refocus on our immediate surroundings, especially people present with us.

Alongside us.

We require time for reflection. We require real conversation, verbal and non-verbal, with real people in real time… sometime. We are blessed by walking away from the screen and talking with God.

I speak all the time — every day, in person, by phone, text, or internet message — with folks who seek, CRAVE a connection with the divine. The Psalmist has a word for us: Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him… Psalm 37:7.

Our souls are better prepared to receive a renewing, refreshing Word, if we can stop once in a while and take a break from the bombardment of voices, images, and stimulation coming at us. That said, keep reading… I am almost done.

However, the “waiting” of prayer and meditation probably works best if we forego – for a dedicated time – playing solitaire on our cell phones or “Angry Birds” on an electronic pad. Perhaps we can substitute a low-volume musical background, or even quiet.


So, I challenge you to the game of “Single Phone Phone Stack.” And I pray you will be blessed by the very present presence of the One who abides with and within, even without WiFi.



Handshakes or Air Hugs?

That season is upon us, again.

More than one strain of flu, along with various viruses, colds, and those “debilitating, bodacious bugs” are passed, person to person, leading us to limit our personal contacts or avoid people all together. “I cannot afford to get sick right now,” we say as we keep our distance. However, total isolation is not always feasible.

Which begs the question…

Handshake or air hug? After church gatherings or any get-togethers these days, we negotiate our greetings and leavetakings — a distant wave? Do we dare clasp hands or add a layer of insulation by bumping fists or elbows? Is a hug a major health hazard? A kiss on the cheek must be out of the question entirely, right?

Certainly, we are wise to take precautions and to exercise care and sensitivity around one another, whatever the season. Some folks, for different reasons, are simply uncomfortable with someone encroaching on their personal space.

Yet we are created to be related, and continual quarantine and total isolation do not suit or serve us well. To be completely cut off from one another, ex-communicated from others, is not good for us.

In Jesus’ day, leprosy was a dread disease, viewed by Hebrew law as a mark of contagious impurity. In Jesus’ day, lepers, we are told, were required to keep their distance, cover their faces and mouths, and shout “UNCLEAN!” whenever another person approached. In that day, lepers were banished from their community (excommunicated) and usually deprived of the contact most humans experience and expect and require each day.

One day, Mark tells us, a leper come to him begging him, and kneeling he said to Jesus, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Moved by compassion, Jesus stretched out his hand and TOUCHED him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.

rembrandtsketch(REMBRANDT SKETCH, 1665)

In Jesus Christ, a holy God does not keep distant from us, but touches us in all our weakness, isolation, and alienation. Some part of all of us longs for whole and hopeful communion with God and one another. We pray, “If you choose…”

And our Lord answers, “I do so choose” and touches us with grace.